Today, I would like to join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day while acknowledging how the introduction of mobile phones has helped hastening development among women in Kenya. I want to acknowledge the role of mobile use among women of Mathare Valley. Most women use the phone for communicating and money transfers. The use of social network is not very popular with older women. The most popular social network is Facebook especially amongst young ladies.
From Mlango Kubwa to Kiamaiko it is estimated that 1 out of 7 women have access to mobile phone. I met a group of women and when I asked them what they will choose between a mobile phone and laptop, many preferred the cell phone. The most preferred handset is Nokia while handsets from China are preferred for their affordability.
Women with access to mobile have greater chance of having more social support base and feeling safe than those without. Take a case of the lady who was nearly raped by the neighbor, she found it convenient to call for assistance and within twenty minutes she was on her way to the hospital and one later she was at the police station.
In fact the use of mobile phone has really helped bridge the digital divide that nearly hampered access to internet for sometime. Computer and access to internet was expensive beyond the reach of many slum dwellers. Given that women control social and economic life of most slums, the mobile phones have helped facilitate communication and other transaction. Mary Muthoni is a member of three merry-go-round scheme. She does not have time to attend the three meeting at once. In one of the saving scheme, she makes her contribution through the Mpesa. She now preferred saving her money in her phone as opposed to the bank since it is less cumbersome. This has helped her save time and money.
The illiteracy among women has not deterred them from the use of mobile phone. The handsets are easy to use as opposed to computers which require training on basic skills plus expensive infrastructure for the initial set up.
Maybe the next step will be to ‘train’ people on the use of Twitter and YouTube even though corrupt, dictatorial and authoritarian African states have became allergic to the social network.
The theme for 2011 is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.
The event will be celebrated in Nairobi at Huruma Grounds and is being co-ordinated by Amref-Kenya and White Ribbon. Reality Tested Youth Programme will mobilize women and young ladies from Mathare, Huruma and other parts of the Nairobi County. The event will be used to promote safe motherhood. – Simon